Easy like fried chicken

How did it go again, when Lionel Richie sang it? “That’s why I’m easy, easy like Sunday evening?”

Wait, no, that’s wrong. It was morning, easy like Sunday morning.

But for me, well for me it was Sunday evening that was the easy one. Easy and delicious.

I was walking down First Ave. with a certain someone, making our way toward the L train, casually talking about maybe grabbing something quick and easy to eat before heading back to Brooklyn, when I made the suggestion.

“How ‘bout this place?” I asked, pointing to the barely noticeable, easily missable sign on Fuku’s door. “They do a good chicken sandwich. And it’s fast.”

IMG_8718I’d been there about a year before with a couple of friends, and remembered liking it. David Chang can do no wrong in my book. In his Momofuku kingdom, he’s got the Midas touch of deliciousness.

The menu’s small at Fuku and the main attraction is Chang’s chicken sandwich. A couple of sandwiches, some chicken fingers, fries, a couple sides, a few drinks , and that’s all folks! But when things are as good as this, you don’t need a lot of choices, and for someone like me, who struggles with decision-making, that’s a great thing.

Ordering— unlike so many other times at so many other places—was a breeze and I went with the Koreano, a slight twist on the regular chicken sandwich. No fries cause I wasn’t ravenously hungry as usual (and because my partner in crime for the night got some so I thought he wouldn’t mind a couple missing.)

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Deciding on Fuku was easy, ordering was easy and when my Koreano came out, it was easy too. Not a ton of toppings or competing flavors, just a few really great things coming together to make a phenomenal chicken sandwich. The bun, smooth and seedless, was soft and subtly sweet, with a smear of bright flavored chili sauce on the inside. A heap of tangy shredded daikon radish, a couple simple bread and butter pickles, and the star of the show: a huge hunk of absolutely perfect fried chicken.

Perfect, I said. Perfect.  Crunchy and golden on the outside and unbelievably juicy and tender on the inside. I don’t know what kind of black magic was used to pull off this chicken, but I support it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in life was this easy and so so good? Not easy like Sunday morning, Lionel. Easy like perfect fried chicken.

Binging in the Lowcountry

Hot damn you guys, I just went on a serious biscuit bender. Almost three days spent in the lovely and oh-so-charming city of Charleston, South Carolina, and let me tell you: biscuits biscuits BIIIISCUITS.

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A biscuit fiend

There is many a mile to be spent on the treadmill in atonement in the weeks to come . Yes, weeks. That’s how much biscuit binging went down this weekend. I let southern comfort food snuggle me in its warm, loving bosom and it was nice. Real nice.

My sister and I hadn’t walked more than a few blocks down King Street, one of downtown Charleston’s main thoroughfares, when I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t even read the whole sign on the door but I saw “biscuits” and that’s all I needed to know before I looked at my sister and said, “Let’s go in.”

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits was just a small counter to order from and a narrow bar up against the biscuit themed mural painted wall, with people pressed in tight to get their hands on some homemade biscuits. There were small, slider-sized biscuits,  larger fist-sized biscuits, sweet ones and savory ones, filled and sandwiched. Biscuit heaven in all its southern glory, if you ask me.

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Southern Lovin’ at its finest

We got the gloriously messy Southern Lovin’ sandwich, made with a big ol’ buttery biscuit, a juicy, hunk of fried chicken, a perfectly runny fried egg, and a small sea of warm made-fresh-right-there, sausage gravy. With sticky fingers, crumbs everywhere and a losing fight with a plastic fork, we agreed this was not date food. But dates be damned, this was a sisters trip and that biscuit was phenomenal.

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Biscuits for breakfast, biscuits for dessert

As a slightly sweeter finish to the first of our biscuit feasts, we went with an order of two small buttermilk biscuits, stuffed full and oozing with dark, delicious blackberry jam. Obviously neater and less challenging to eat, these might’ve fooled someone into thinking we were just two nice girls taking a morning biscuit break.

Bless their hearts, they had no idea we were just getting started on a carb-fueled bender.

 

A whole lot of comforting

My sister and I are separated by roughly 1,200 miles (1,276.3 if you ask Google) and because I have a slight aversion to Miami, where she still lives, and she’s been to New York a bunch of times, we thought we should get together in a whole new city.

Our requirements were that our destination be no more than a couple of hours away by plane, have fun things to do (the younger De Angelis isn’t one for poolside lounging or beach bumming) and have lots of good food. So off we went to Atlanta, to do our sister bonding with a side of southern comfort.

Many a calorie was consumed by way of fried, butter-laden southern specialties, but we both agreed the best meal of the trip (though possibly the worst for our waistlines) was at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, the kind of bright, sunny restaurant that fills up with bustling families and church ladies in their Sunday best, all packed in for heaping plates of artery-clogging southern goodness and tall glasses of sweet tea.

Plain table bread? Psshh, not here, folks!

Plain table bread? Psshh, not here, folks!

Right out of the gate, Mary Mac’s starts you off with a basket of sweet morning buns and cornbread in place of regular ol’ bread. Morning buns, with their sweet cinnamon bun-like swirl of brown sugar, were an interesting way to start things off, almost dessert-y and a nice complement to the more savory butter-slathered cornbread.

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Oh you know, just a little light lunch.

While the options were many, with seemingly endless combinations of carbs on carbs on carbs, I went with the shrimp and cheese grits with fried green tomatoes and my all-time favorite, sweet potato soufflé, as sides. The cheese grits were all of the creamy, buttery, cheesy perfection I needed them to be, with fat, juicy shrimp plopped on top, and the fried green tomatoes, tangy and juicy inside their crunchy, battered shells were the ideal companion. But by and far, my heart was won over by the sweet potato soufflé, all creamy and smooth, caramelized marshmallow sitting on top like a dream.

Fried chicken, dumplings and mac and cheese...trifecta of deliciousness.

Fried chicken, dumplings and mac and cheese…trifecta of deliciousness.

The other De Angelis went with fried chicken (because really, when in Rome…), mac and cheese and dumplings. The chicken, a giant, hulking affair of crispy, crunchy skin and tender white meat paired well with the softer, creamier sides. The dumplings, thick and soupy in their gravy like sauce were like the ooey, gooey, cheesey mac and cheese in rich, over the top southern goodness.

Peach cobbler, cause there's always room for something sweet.

Peach cobbler, cause there’s always room for something sweet.

Finally, even with all of that in our systems, we squeezed in dessert: a shared portion of Georgia peach cobbler. Unlike the cobbler I ate in bed back at the hotel, this one was all fruit, no crust. It was good, the stewed, spiced peaches soft and warm, but definitely could’ve used at least a little bit of ice cream. Cause hell, after you’ve had that many calories, what’s another couple hundred?

We left completely stuffed, ready for deep, long naps, and happily bordering on discomfort by the amount of good ol’ Georgia comfort food we put back.

Mary Mac's Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Go me, it’s my birthday!

Today marks the official beginning of the end… of my 20s that is. That’s right folks, I’m turning the big 2-9. (Shocking, I know, since it feels like I’ve been coasting at 22 for ages now.)

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to make like Feivel and head west, to California, where I’ll be visiting old friends, new places and hopefully forgetting about the closeness of 30.

Nothing puts the happy in happy birthday quite like chicken and waffles ON TOP of a cupcake.

Nothing puts the happy in happy birthday quite like chicken and waffles ON TOP of a cupcake.

But really, the celebrating started a few days ago when my ah-ma-zing roomate and dear good friend bought me chicken and waffles cupcakes from Yaya’s Cakes in Crown Heights.

Yup, go ahead and let that settle in your head: chicken and waffles cupcakes. Vanilla buttermilk cupcakes topped with vanilla maple buttercream, a wedge of waffle, a hunk of fried chicken and a spicy maple drizzle. Every bit as over the top and delicious as they sound.

Now, THAT’S how you properly kick off a birthday! Next stop, sunny California!

Comfort on the bucket list

In the almost four years since I first moved to New York I’ve made good progress on my New York bucket list.

          – Go to a Knicks game. Check.

          – Visit the Statue of Liberty. Check.

          – See a TV show taping. Check. (Letterman and The View!)

          – Visit all five boroughs. Check.

       – Meet Jay- Z. CHECK. (Ok, so this wasn’t on the list but it happened, so ha! Take that, bucket list!)

And now I can finally cross off one more thing, something that had long been sitting toward the top of the list: eat chicken and waffles at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem. CHECK CHECK CHECK!

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Amy Ruth’s chicken and waffles aka The Rev. Al Sharpton

But unlike visiting the Statue of Liberty or going to Staten Island, eating at Amy Ruth’s is something I won’t be content to do just once and be done with. No no nooooo. I want to eat at Amy Ruth’s again and again, until I can’t stand the sight of another fried chicken topped waffle, until all of that delicious southern style comfort food offers me comfort no more. And that day, for the record, I’m sure will never actually come.

Officially on the menu as The Rev. Al Sharpton, Amy Ruth’s chicken and waffles are a serious affair. The waffle itself is massive, probably about eight inches in diameter and maybe an inch and a half thick. Doughhy and pillowy soft while still maintaining a slight toasted edge on top (perfect for little pools of butter and maple syrup!), the giant waffle was topped with two large pieces of golden, crunchy-skinned fried chicken. Some people perfer to keep the syrup strictly on their waffles, but not me. I like to slow-pour it all over the chicken and the waffles, so everything gets a sticky sweet coating, and each perfect forkful is a combination of sweet and savory, juicy and crunchy, sticky and amazing.

My NYC bucket list still includes seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and going to a baseball game (Yankees or Mets, I don’t really care), but one thing I’m not crossing out is going back to Amy Ruth’s for more chicken and waffles.. I’m keeping it on the list as a fixture so I have an excuse to go back a million more times.

Amy Ruth's on Urbanspoon

Pumped

While having dinner at the too-cool-for-my-own-good Pump Room at the swanky Public Chicago hotel, I came to a realization: I’d love to be one of those travelers that just seems to hang out all day, lounging around the lobby of their plush hotel, requesting 11am wake-up calls and then worrying only about when their in-room massage is scheduled or what time dinner is.

If I was one of those travelers, which time and money constraints keep me from being, I’d check in to a place like the Public, and just bask in the awesomeness of it all. More precisely, I would eat three square meals a day at The Pump Room, and sip cocktails in between (and during) meals in the uber chic bar or the stylish lobby. (This would also all take place during winter so I wouldn’t have to leave the hotel. )

Alas, I’m not that kind of traveler. But during an awesome dinner at the Pump Room during my recent jaunt with the beau, I pretended to be, at least for the duration of dinner. The Jean-Georges restaurant seems to have borrowed lots of menu items from another JG restaurant, the always-without-fail delicious ABC Kitchen in New York, which was more than fine by me since that pretty much guaranteed the food would be amazing. And it was.

Lessons in deliciousness: coating calamari in pretzel crumbs.

The boy and I started out with an order of pretzel dusted calamari, something I’d already had (and loved) at ABC. With both a tangy, sweet marinara sauce and a creamy, spicy mustard aioli, this was just more of a good thing. Every city in the world should have a place to get this dish.

It’s always a good time for flatbread, especially if it involves truffles.

And because I don’t believe in holding back while on vacation, we also got one of Pump Room’s whole wheat flatbreads, the one with black truffle, fontina and frisee salad. It was just the right amount of doughy, cheesy and truffley (yea, I know, not a real word).

Fried chicken on a bed of spinach, wait for it, in spicy butter. Mind blown, huh?

For the entree, I went with fried organic chicken cause really, is there anything harder to resist than good fried chicken? This one came with spinach and a velvety, fiery homemade hot sauce butter. Crunchy skin, tender, juicy meat, and spinach to make you understand Popeye a million times over. Heaven on a dish, no lie, people.

Short rib and pureed potatoes. YES please.

Flaneur ordered the glazed beef short rib with potato puree and a crunchy, cheddar garnish.The spicy peppers gave a tasty heat to the hearty, delicious meat. I’m never a huge fan of short ribs, but this could make a believer out of anyone.

Dessert

And finally, because I wouldn’t dare leave a restaurant like this without dessert, we split the creme fraiche cheesecake with blood orange sorbet, fennel crisps and kumquat marmalade. With its creamy consistency and fresh, clean fruity flavors, it was a nice, subtle note to end the dinner on. I could have eaten four more though, just for the record.

Southern comforts

Going “home” to Miami isn’t exactly comforting for me. It can be fun, yes, catching up with old friends, seeing family (in small, controlled doses), hanging out in my old stomping grounds. If I squeeze in some beach time, Miami can even be relaxing, but rarely, if ever, is it comforting.

Comfort in a cocktail: Yardbird's tasty Watermelon Sling

But during the last visit to my ol’ hometown, between long stretches spent trapped in the car thanks to Miami’s ever-present traffic (reason number a billion to live in a city with actual, functioning public transportation), I was able to find some comfort. As it often does, comfort came in the form of food. (Sorry, family.)

Eating at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar was one of only a small number of things on my “must-absolutely-get-done-while-I’m-in-town” list. I read about it a few months ago when it first opened and immediately wanted to go. when I read about southern comfort food staples like fried chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread. Miami may be south, but southern it definitely is not.

I loved Yardbird right away, with its country-cool, rustic vibe and a distinctly not Miami Beach feel. But when my Watermelon Sling came out, all sweet and refreshing with its crisp, clean mix of fresh watermelon juice, smokey borboun, lemon, orange bitters and a light, frothy cucumber foam, I was head over heels.

Then came the perfect follow up to my drink, melons and cheese, chosen from the small plates portion of the menu. Two fat wedges of bright, juicy watermelon were topped with a grilled cheese that the menu called farm cheese, but I thought was a lot like queso fresco, the white, salty cheese used in Mexican and other hispanic cuisines. Either way, it was delicious and further proof that mixing sweet (in this case, fruity) with savory, is always a recipe for tastiness.

Melons and cheese: win, WIN.

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